Pas du Roc Icefall

Climbing frozen waterfalls was born in the 70s and at this time, most waterfalls froze and would remain frozen the majority the winter. But, the climate is changing and the rise in temperatures is becoming more obvious. As a result, and for some years now, the ice climbing season has become more restricted.


However, beautiful formations still appear every year to the delight of ice climbers. Sometimes it is the big flow of water that freezes like in 2012 with the cascade of the Pisse (in the Grave), the waterfall of Moulin Marquis (in front of the famous cliffs of Presles) or even the waterfall Saint Benoît (in Maurienne), sometimes it seeps and freezes, and sometimes it is a surprise! At the end of February 2018, after a complicated season where we saw a mix of all the ingredients; complex and obscure weather (lots of snow, intense rain, bright cold but also great softness), beautiful ice routes still made an appearance.


The Pas du Roc is one of those ice routes...

Nothing, however, could foreshadow the rebirth of this route so rarely observed. Low altitude: 1000m; unfavorable orientation: facing south; an equally unfavorable physiognomy: stiff; and an often-non-existent winter water supply. Its last appearance was in 2003.


But on February 26, Julien Irilli messaged me and with his photo it was clear, the route of Pas du Roc is formed again!

Questions remained: Is the ice thick enough? Is the ice strong enough to climb? But we couldn’t waste time, the weather forecast was calling for warming temperatures. It was decided, we need to cancel all other obligations, and go. In our discipline, it is the waterfall that decides the appointment.

We headed to this jewel, this cathedral bursting with excitement. During our approach, we couldn’t take our eyes off our objective.

At the base, we took a moment for reflection, then, Julien began the first pitch. With each swing of the axe, a sickening sound of rotten ice can be heard from below. Protection in the last third of the pitch are non-existent.

We finally make it through the first pitch, we breathe a sigh of relief. The next pitch is classic. The ice is soft and pleasant to climb. We quickly reached the base of the third pitch and I am relieved to see a cave.  Protecting my climbing partners from icefall always seems obvious and even an obligation, this cave provides that protection.

The third pitch is mad, stiff, and looks like a large, frozen jellyfish. The ice is airy, tubular and cold. The climbing is modern and gymnastic. We find deep satisfaction in knowing we made it through this second crux with ease. All that is left is a one last short pitch to the top.

It is a rare privilege to be able to climb this waterfall. So rare and pleasant, we took a second lap, but this time we climb the right variation.

Many thanks to my partners for these wonderful days, in particular Julien Irilli!

Years of practice and training prepared us to the intense moments of this route and because of that we can take pleasure in a job well done.

It is also for these intense moments that one learns patience.

Roc, we've been waiting for you for 15 years!

The dream has come true ...


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